Archive for November, 2012

OHC – The Absolute Final Post of the Challenge For 2012 I Promise

Posted in Uncategorized on November 9, 2012 by annamae3

October Challenge 2010 banner

The October Horror Challenge is done until 2013. I’d just like to thank everyone who read the blog, retweeted the links, commented, or gave kudos over the last month. Particular shout-outs to Christianne Benedict at Krell Laboratories, Renee Knipe at Gaming as Women, Scott Madin at Fineness & Accuracy (and also on twitter @ScottMadin), and to the fine people at the October Challenge Facebook page. If you’re so inclined, join us there for next year’s Challenge.

Here follows is a list of the films from this year’s views that I found to be particularly memorable, outstanding, and recommendable. Feel free to use this as a quick guide if you’re looking for a horror film to spend some time with:

Monkey Shines (1988)
The Comedy of Terrors (1963)
Island of Lost Souls (1932)
The Innkeepers (2012)
Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
Stage Fright (1987)
The Whip and the Body (1963)
Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Frankenstein (1931)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
Frankenweenie (2012)
Livid (2011)
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Prometheus (2012)

Thanks once again for playing along, and stay tuned for more reviews in the future. In the past, blog posts here have been hit/miss, few and far between, and I’m hoping to rally some of my fellow contributors to write more for the site. I’m not alone in hoping to see this project continue on. If you like the blog, please feel free to share it, comment on posts, etc. and get the word out.

See you soon…

Advertisements

OHC – This is Halloween

Posted in Fun Stuff, Reviews on November 8, 2012 by annamae3

In wrapping up the October Horror Challenge, this penultimate post is dedicated to the most wonderful time of the year: Halloween. Halloween is like Christmas to me, but with less gift-giving and more horrifying things. Christmas does have Krampus, though, which is pretty terrifying. Anyhow, Halloween is reserved for the traditional viewings of three films, one of which only squeaks past the horror smell test, but since it’s so inextricably linked in my mind with the best month and holiday of the year, I have to include it. But let’s go back to 30 October first, and to a film that kicked off the seasonal love-fest for so many horror fans…

__________________________________________________

Halloween (1978)
Directed by John Carpenter

Hailed by many as the origin of the slasher film craze (although Bob Clark’s Black Christmas [1972] should probably hold that title), this early John Carpenter film holds up incredibly well over time. I hadn’t watched Halloween in full for a while, and never in a theater setting before, so when ScreenVision teamed with Halloween Movies to bring the original film back to the big screen, I had to take the opportunity to go see it. After a particularly awful and poorly-made retrospective on the Halloween franchise, the film started, and I was completely blown away at how scary the film is after all these years. It has an absurdly basic plot – a young boy, Michael Myers, who killed his older sister escapes the asylum where he’s been for several years and returns home to terrorize a young woman on Halloween night – but the simplicity of it is where the horror lies. There’s no explanation for the killer, aside from a line spoken by his psychiatrist (Donald Pleasance) explaining him as “pure evil,” and there is no connection between him and his primary target Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), a misstep that the sequel makes when it’s explained that she is his little sister.

Halloween is almost a primer for how to make an effective horror film on the cheap and in less than a month. Although it does rely on several stingers for its scares, Carpenter really knew how to use the entire frame, positioning characters in a such a way as to create tension.

“Just the two of us…”

I’d forgotten how much foreshadowing takes place in this film, something that adds to the overall sense of dread that permeates the atmosphere. It’s nearly too heavy-handed in the beginning, particularly the scenes of Michael stalking Laurie at school while her teacher drones on about fate, but it also neatly identifies us with Laurie. We can’t change her course of events any more than she can, and so we’re forced to watch, helpless and impotent. And damnit, it works, even decades later – I found myself completely unnerved driving home alone in the dark. Halloween never disturbed or really scared me before, so I think I can safely say that yes, there is something to be said for watching horror films on a big screen, especially something like this film that isn’t a gore-fest or a constant stream of terror forced in our faces. Halloween works best in the dark and in the silence, and in a setting where our eyes never stop scanning the entire screen for a glimpse of the faceless killer who lurks about the edges.

__________________________________________________

[31 October]
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Directed by Michael Dougherty

There’s no tradition like a new tradition, so every year since I bought Trick ‘r Treat on DVD, I’ve watched it on Halloween night after handing out candy to the kids and stuffing my face with anything that’s leftover. There is no film that captures the spirit of the season better, no film that is as much of a love letter to All Hallow’s Eve as Dougherty’s film. He manages to uphold classic Halloween urban legends, like the one about poisoned candy, while weaving them into entirely new ones in a story that loops back on itself several times. It’s a perfect treat with a handful of tricks – both delightful and delightfully nasty – that never fails to entertain me. But it isn’t all just marshmallow fluff; there are scenes in Trick ‘r Treat that are emotionally powerful as well, including a flashback to a story about a bus full of mentally challenged kids whose parents no longer want to deal with the burden of caring for them.

The wheels on the bus go down, down, down…

That story has a particularly satisfying conclusion by film’s end. The fun of Trick ‘r Treat comes primarily from all of the surprises, twists, and developments. Everyone gets what they deserve, and if you don’t respect the spirit of the season, you get the biggest, deadliest surprise of all.

__________________________________________________

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Directed by Frank Capra

Okay, so this movie isn’t really a horror film, but it does have two murderous old ladies, a Boris Karloff lookalike, and Peter Lorre playing a creepy plastic surgeon. It’s also set on Halloween night, making it a sweet companion film to Trick ‘r Treat. Arsenic and Old Lace is the tale of one Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant), a publicly confirmed bachelor and drama critic who just got married to his childhood sweetheart. He returns home to tell his two sweet little old aunts and finds that they’ve been doing their idea of charity work – poisoning lonely old men with no families who rent their spare room. Not only that, but they’ve been employing his brother Teddy (who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt) to dig graves in the basement under the premise that he’s digging locks for the Panama Canal. Into this fray comes another, creepier brother, Jonathan, who is on the run from the law with his alcoholic sidekick and bears a resemblance to a popular horror actor…just don’t mention his name.

Don’t call me Karloff.

Like most Frank Capra comedies, this film can best be described as madcap, but with the added bonus of being a little spooky on the side. I mean, think about it: two adorable little old ladies, serving poison with a smile. It kind of ties back to the poisoned candy urban legend. And a brother that cuts worms in half with his teeth? That’s just gross! So okay, it’s not a horror film, but as a Halloween film, Arsenic and Old Lace is perfect, like a handful of fun size candy bars in the chill of an October night.

__________________________________________________

That wraps up this year’s October Horror Challenge. Thanks for sticking it out with me, and look for my wrap-up post in which I list my favorite and least favorite films of the Challenge. Also don’t forget to listen to the latest Dreams in the Bitch House podcast, in which we go over the Challenge as well as other horror films good and bad.

Final tally:
32 FTVs
19 repeat views
51 total

OHC – Bits and Bobs

Posted in Fun Stuff, Reviews on November 6, 2012 by annamae3

In this brief post, reviews for two films that I knocked out right before Halloween night. Nothing special, although one is immensely better than the other. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first…

__________________________________________________

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) – FTV
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

I’m honestly not sure why I watched this one. It’s not like I’m a fan of the series. I went to see the first one in the theater, and was impressed by a couple of the effects in the film. I liked the presentation of it – no credits at the beginning or end, cast of unknowns, so on. Ultimately I wasn’t overwhelmed, and when a sequel was announced, it didn’t fuss me much. Eventually Paranormal Activity 2 showed up on Netflix Instant, so I gave it a go. It was pretty terrible, not only as sequels go, but for these kinds of movies to work as a series, the action has to be ramped up each time. There should be better effects, ones that make the audience really scratch their heads and wonder how it was done if NOT by poltergeists? PA2 seemed to drag forever until an obnoxiously loud ending, and an epilogue that promises another sequel. But Paranormal Activity 3 doesn’t exactly follow the first two films – it’s a prequel in which we get more backstory to the whole damn thing. We get to see the main characters of the previous films as children.

A scene from the trailer, but not the final film.

The sisters, Katie and Kristi, live with their mom and her boyfriend in a suburban California home. Kristi, the younger of the girls, has an invisible friend named Toby. If you’ve seen any kind of horror film with children and invisible friends, you can tell what’s going to happen. It’s the same sort of set-up as the first two films: weird stuff is going on, the man of the house decides to record what’s happening, freaky shit is caught on tape, the film ends with a bumrush of what-the-funkery before roll credits. I should note that PA2 and PA3 have closing credits, unlike PA1, which kind of ruins the mood a little. I mean, we all know these movies are fake, but do the filmmakers have to stick it in our faces like that?

Anyhow, many people were disappointed in Paranormal Activity 3, because there were apparently several scenes in the trailers and previews that didn’t make it into the actual film (example above, although there is a similar scene in the movie). I understand that disappointment, but since by the time I saw PA3 I’d forgotten the previews entirely, so I didn’t feel too bad about any of that. I actually found myself enjoying the film, despite its major flaws – things like the film being widescreen and high definition when it’s supposed to have been shot all on VHS tape, the cheap fake-out scares, and the effects that are relatively easy to figure out for anyone who’s seen their share of ghost stories. I rather liked the backstory it provided, because let’s face it, I like [SPOILER WARNING] movies about witches’ covens. I think it’s why I liked The Last Exorcism so much, despite THAT film’s massive flaws. I didn’t expect that weirdo ending, even though it was obviously foreshadowed. I thought it was creepy as heck. Paranormal Activity 3 is not a great film, but it kept my attention and it added more to the overall storyline, and it was better crafted than the second film in the series. It helps to keep your expectations low, though.

__________________________________________________

Son of Frankenstein (1939) – FTV
Directed by Rowland V. Lee

Since I’d already watched Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein (twice!), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and Frankenweenie (both versions!), it seemed natural to sit down with Son of Frankenstein, which was the last time Boris Karloff would play the famous monster. I’d also kept my expectations low for this one, because I’d been jaded by Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, which only exists for the final reel, where Frankenstein and the Wolf Man beat the snot out of each other. That particular film also retcons both of its original films’ storylines so much that there’s no real connection to any previous film. So something like Son of Frankenstein sounded like a pure cash-in, and maybe it was, but damn does it ever click.

Well, hello!

Set several years, a generation actually, after the first two films, this movie is about the Victor Frankenstein’s son Wolf returning with his wife and son to his father’s hometown, where the villagers are entirely unwelcoming save for the lead police inspector. Wolf vows not to continue his father’s experiments, but soon he finds that a condemned man who survived a hanging (for the crime of body snatching) has been using the infamous creature to carry out a series of murders around the countryside. The creature, however, has fallen ill and Wolf’s natural curiosity has him finding a way to bring the monster back into consciousness. Of course none of this goes well, and Wolf ends up destroying his father’s greatest work, which isn’t quite as poetic and touching as the monster destroying himself in Bride of Frankenstein, but it’s still effective.

For those of you who are fans of Young Frankenstein, like my parents as I mentioned before, you’ll notice many familiar scenes and characters in Son of Frankenstein, particularly the police inspector with the wooden limb. Mel Brooks took the plausible absurdities in the first three Frankenstein films and turned them just counterclockwise enough to make them completely absurd. Frankly, though, he didn’t have to turn them too much. Anyhow, while Son of Frankenstein isn’t as great a sequel as Bride, it’s a wonderful film all on its own and a brilliant addition to the Frankenstein family.

__________________________________________________

One more post, all about the films I watched in honor of Halloween, and then a big wrap-up post as a companion to the podcast, and the October Challenge blogging is closed for this year. However, I will remain here to write about other horror, exploitation and cult films on a semi-regular basis. See you all soon.

Views so far:
32 FTVs
16 repeat views
48 total

OHC – Movie Party

Posted in Fun Stuff, Reviews on November 5, 2012 by annamae3

October Challenge 2010 banner

On 26 and 27 October, my friends Renee (whom I’ve mentioned previously) and Matt (whom I have not) hosted their annual Halloween horror movie gathering. This year’s selections included movies that have not yet been released in the US, as well as a movie that has only been shown on the festival circuit. We’ll start with that one…

__________________________________________________

Weaverfish (2012) – FTV
Directed by Harrison Wall

What starts as a character-driven – oh, and how – drama about a weekend camping trip to an abandoned island becomes a slow-building terror flick ending with some sick body horror and human/fish mutations. Unfortunately, the film spends too much time on building character relationships and introducing the audience to too many people that by the time it gets to the horror in the third act, it feels like too little too late. There’s a fine line between a good slow-burn horror film that creates palpable tension in the down time, and taking too long for anything to actually happen. Unfortunately, Weaverfish falls into the second category. However, when it gets to the ‘good stuff,’ as it were, it’s really good stuff.

I wouldn’t touch that if I were you.

I’m finally understanding the dilemma of reviewing first-time independent productions: on one hand, you have to be honest in your feelings on the film, but on the other hand, this is someone’s first major production and knocking it out of the park on the first try is practically impossible, so there’s definitely room for improvement. At the end of the day, Weaverfish is a decent first effort from a young director that ultimately is too unbalanced between drama and horror to work effectively as either.

__________________________________________________

Lobos de Arga (2012, a.k.a. Game of Werewolves, Attack of the Werewolves, Party of Wolves, etc.) – FTV
Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno

A writer comes back to his childhood home and finds the community is less than welcoming, and with good reason. Tomas Marino’s family was cursed by a Gypsy woman 100 years ago, and the town has been plagued by werewolf attacks since; however, the blood of a Marino will break this curse, so the villagers capture Tomas and his agent to use in a ritual killing. But when they escape, they end up waking the beast from its slumber, setting off a chain of events that don’t exactly turn out the way you might expect – all you need to know is all hell breaks loose. If you’re looking for a horror comedy with werewolves that references the sub-genre from Paul Naschy to the original Lon Chaney Wolf Man, this is your movie.

Actually not a spoiler!

Not only was this a genuinely funny movie with some absolutely hilarious scenes – the part where Tomas’s friends come up with a possible solution to breaking the curse if he only sacrifices a pinky finger is a highlight – but there was very little CGI for the special effects. The werewolves are the traditional suit-and-makeup variety, which is both refreshing and comforting these days, and completely reminiscent of both Curse of the Werewolf and Naschy’s werewolves. Lobos de Arga only suffers in one major aspect: there are no female characters, save for one who shows up near the end as a plot device and to add a brief moment of emotional drama. That mars the film from being truly exceptional, but otherwise it stands as one of the better horror comedies since Shaun of the Dead.

__________________________________________________

Livid (2011) – FTV
Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo

By most accounts, Livid is a difficult film to summarize. It starts as a haunted house film, then becomes a vampire story, then finally ends up being something like a Grimm fairy tale. For as much genre-switching as Livid does, the final product somehow works on an emotionally evocative level. The story itself is about a young woman, Lucy, training to be a home health aide who gets a tip from her trainer that there is a fortune to be found in the last house they visit, which is inhabited by the comatose ballet instructor Mrs. Jessel. When Lucy tells her boyfriend and his brother about it, they decide to break in late one night and search for this treasure. What they find there is that not only is the house haunted, Mrs. Jessel has made a life-size music box figure of her deceased daughter. As if that weren’t creepy enough, there’s also a room with no doors that one of the characters somehow finds himself in, and a tea party attended by stuffed animals – and not of the toy variety.

Warning: turning the key to this music box may be hazardous to your health

With a cast primarily comprised of women and a plot that’s all about the bonds that women make and break and build again, Livid was a nice counterpoint to Lobos de Arga. Here, the men end up being the plot devices. It should be noted that this film is directed by the guys who did Inside, another horror film about women – although this one has a far more uplifting tone by the end. Where Inside is a harrowing brutal massacre, Livid is creepy and less coherent and straightforward, which adds a dream-like quality. I’d quickly compare it to something like Suspiria; in fact, this film seems to be as polarizing as Argento’s work. People either hate it or they appreciate it. Personally, I like Suspiria, because of it’s weirdness, and I enjoyed Livid as well.

__________________________________________________

Only a couple more blog posts left to scrape together for my Challenge views. I’ve been awfully lax about getting them written and posted in a timely manner, but think of it this way: I’m just extending October over two months. You’ll thank me for this when we get bombarded with Christmas everything in about a week. Just you wait!

In other updates, the most recent DitBH podcast is up. This one is different from the others because for the first time, the contributors were all in the same room at the same time. That in itself is rare. In addition, it’s probably our tightest podcast yet; we stayed on topic just about the entire time, and as such, the result is a densely packed treat that lasts over 90 minutes. So if you have time to spare (and if you don’t, make the time), click here and listen to me, Shelly, Christi, and Renee give our October Challenge wrap-up. We cover a lot of material, so you’re sure to find something interesting.

Views so far:
30 FTVs
16 repeat views
46 total

October Challenge 2012 Podcast

Posted in Fun Stuff, Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2012 by dunyazad

The Dreams in the Bitch House Podcast returns! With 20% less rambling! Just press play on the media player above and bask in Halloween-y goodness.

Show notes below the cut. Continue reading

OHC – Slimy Wormys from Outer Space (and Gremlins)!

Posted in Fun Stuff, Reviews on November 2, 2012 by annamae3

The October Horror Challenge is officially over, but there’s still a couple of blog posts left to write up, and even a podcast to record, so don’t run away yet. All kinds of wrapping up to do, but until then, here comes a duo of horror flicks about space slugs and a bonus review of a time-honored classic. Shall we?

__________________________________________________

The Deadly Spawn (1983) – FTV
Directed by Douglas McKeown

When a meteor containing a worm creature that seems to be made of little more than heads with thousands of teeth crash lands on Earth, all hell breaks loose and it’s up to a plucky group of teenagers to save the world. Of course. The film offers little innovation to the space invasion subgenre, although there is a lot of really gross gore and a nice cheap-n-sleazy feel. The Deadly Spawn was apparently made to cash in on the success of Ridley Scott’s Alien, although it comes nowhere near the greatness of that particular film. Then again, when you’re watching a movie with massive space slugs that have several rows of teeth and not much of a plot, it’s not fair to expect greatness. This is the best kind of film, however, to watch with a group of friends and a case or two of beer. In fact, I’d have to watch it again in such a setting, because otherwise, I found myself too distracted by other things (the internet, mostly) to be able to really focus on the film. A second try didn’t fare much better. Ah well.

__________________________________________________

Night of the Creeps (1986) – FTV
Directed by Fred Dekker

Now this, this is how you make a movie about critters invading from space. Crossing multiple subgenres and seamlessly blending horror and comedy, Night of the Creeps is definitely one of the highlights of this year’s Challenge. The film is mostly concerned with two college freshmen and their attempts to get dates for an upcoming dance, when a zombie invasion fueled by alien brain slugs threatens their plans. Add a washed up, wisecracking alcoholic detective (Tom Atkins in a role that seems tailor-made for him) who’s still mourning the ax murder of his ex-girlfriend, and it’s magic.

(insert obvious quote here. come on, you all know the one)

It’s easy to see what makes Night of the Creeps so popular among horror buffs – it’s entertaining as hell, endlessly quotable, and populated with a cast that genuinely seems to enjoy what they’re doing, not to mention all the horror references bandied about. Even when the film falters, the no-holds-barred, entertain at all costs spirit makes it easy to overlook any possible faults. Frankly, I’m a little sad that it took so long for me to get around to seeing this one, but I am thrilled (heh) to have finally watched it. Late to the party again. Par for the course. Anyhow, this gives me an opportunity to post one of my favorite images from the first HorrorHound Weekend I attended:

Yeah. He thrilled me.

___________________________________________________

Bonus review:

Gremlins (1984)
Directed by Joe Dante

A hapless inventor finds the perfect gift for his son in a little creature called a Mogwai, but this isn’t the new family dog. There are three very important rules to owning a Mogwai: keep it out of bright lights, don’t get it wet, and never – NEVER – feed it after midnight. Of course, since there’s a movie to be had here, the rules are swiftly broken and all hell breaks loose. It seems that getting the Mogwai wet makes it spawn, and feeding the spawn after midnight turns them into horrid, slimy creatures that are bent on total mayhem and destruction. Gremlins is a classic in horror comedy, and wildly popular even today. It boosted Joe Dante into the limelight and opened the merchandising floodgates beyond belief. In my memory, this was one of the first films to have so much crossover merchandising, from toys to video games to even cereal. It’s another film embedded in our collective consciousness, especially if you’re a child of the 80s.

raise your paw if you can both name this little guy and sing the theme song

If you were anything like me, you probably wanted your own Mogwai at some point. Come on. Admit it.

__________________________________________________

Coming soon: a mini-marathon hosted by friends, yet another Frankenstein film, and Halloween classics!

Views so far:
27 FTVs
16 repeat views
43 total